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Four to miss out

Sean Cronin

The Connacht hooker has been in fine fettle this season and started Ireland's last international against Argentina in November.

He performed well when Jerry Flannery and Rory Best were unavailable and, given Best's recent injury problems, must have fancied his chances of starting on Saturday, only for the Ulsterman's greater experience and scrummaging strength to hold sway.

Leo Cullen

The form second-row in the country and the unluckiest player to miss out on the Six Nations opener.

Donncha O'Callaghan is a proven performer for Kidney and a key cog in Les Kiss' defensive organisation, but he will need to reproduce the arresting showing he gave off the Munster bench against London Irish to hold off Cullen.

Gavin Duffy

This game looked tailor-made for the Connacht full-back, who is a secure presence at the back and a far better footballer than he gets credit for.

Going with Luke Fitzgerald at 15 lays down an attacking marker, but it also represents something of a gamble as, for all his quality, he has yet to convince in his favoured position.

Peter Stringer

Missing out in every sense. Arguably, Stringer is the scrum-half with the best run of displays going into the tournament; a point that appeared to be reflected by his initial inclusion in the Six Nations extended squad ahead of Tomas O'Leary.

Now he finds himself in neither the senior nor the Wolfhounds squads and, lacking the opportunity to impress, has a difficult challenge forcing his way back in.

Irish Independent